Rip it up and start again? The great Cumbernauld town centre debate

Depending on who you ask, it is either a blight on the landscape or a fine example of 1960s brutalism. Is demolition the right answer? “Makes Chernobyl look like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.” “A concrete fungus.” “Could it not be carefully dismantled and reconstructed at the bottom of the North Sea?” This is some of the recent social media reaction on the subject of Cumbernauld town centre, once internationally celebrated, an ambitious but battered 1960s building designed to house several functions, especially shopping. North Lanarkshire council wants to demolish it. Architectural experts, on the other hand, think it should be kept – the Financial Times’s critic called the council’s decision “a complete outrage”; “cowardly and wasteful,” said Barnabas Calder, an architectural historian at the University of Liverpool. The Twentieth Century Society, which seeks to defend significant buildings of the centre’s epoch, “would very much regret its demolition”. Welcome to the culture wars, as applied to architectural heritage. It’s The People v The Experts, the caricature goes, a case of long-suffering locals being told by outsiders that they have to live with an architectural cadaver. Rightwing media outlets and fury factories crow over this “massive gulf” between popular and professional taste. Nadine Dorries, within hours of becoming culture secretary, pointedly removed the listed status of the Dorman Long Tower, a relic of Redcar’s steel-working heritage, such that it could be demolished by developers. Continue reading...

Post a Comment